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Panel Discussion – Iran and China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Between Desirable and Feasible

February 22, 2021 @ 12:00 pm 1:00 pm

Read the transcript of the event here.

Eyck Freymann, Ph.D. Candidate, Oxford University
Nader Habibi, Professor of Practice, Brandeis University
Dina Esfandiary, Senior Advisor, International Crisis Group

Nargis Kassenova, Senior Fellow, Program on Central Asia, Davis Center
James Gethyn Evans, Communications Officer, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies; Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Harvard University

Experiencing another downturn in its relations with the West, Iran has been more actively “looking to the East” to pursue stronger political and economic cooperation with China. Tehran remains an enthusiastic supporter of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), despite the withdrawal of Chinese companies from a number of projects due to U.S. sanctions. Iran still hopes to benefit from investments, technologies and new connectivity routes promoted under the BRI umbrella. This roundtable will discuss the prospects of Iran becoming a node of the BRI, and the promises and challenges of Chinese investment in the Iranian economy.

Eyck Freymann is a doctoral candidate at Balliol College, Oxford. He was previously research assistant to Graham Allison, Niall Ferguson, and Shi Zhiqin at Harvard, Stanford, and Tsinghua Universities. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Henry Scholar; an AM in Asian Studies from Harvard University, where he won the Joseph Fletcher Memorial Prize for best thesis; and an AB in East Asian History with highest honors from Harvard College. His research and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. He is the author of One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Harvard Asia Center Press, November 2020).

Nader Habibi is the Henry J. Leir Professor of Practice in the Economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Before joining Brandeis University in June 2007, he served as managing director of economic forecasting and risk analysis for Middle East and North Africa in Global Insight Ltd. Mr. Habibi has worked in academic and research institutions in Iran, Turkey and the United States since 1987. He earned his PhD in Economics from Michigan State University. His most recent research projects include an analysis of the excess supply of college graduates in Middle Eastern countries, impact of economic sanctions on Iranian economy and the impact of Arab Spring uprisings on economic conditions of the affected countries. Habibi also served as director of Islamic and Middle East Studies at Brandeis University (August 2014-August 2019). He has published a work of fiction about Middle East geopolitics titled: Three Stories One Middle East (2014). Links to his publications are available at https://naderhabibi.blogspot.com/.

Dina Esfandiary is Senior Advisor in the Middle East and North Africa department of the International Crisis Group (ICG). Previously, she was a Fellow in the Middle East department of The Century Foundation (TCF), an International Security Program Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and an Adjunct Fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Middle East Program. Prior to this, she worked at the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) in the War Studies Department at King’s College London from February 2015, and in the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament programme of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London from October 2009. Dina has published widely, including in Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic, The Guardian, the Washington Post, International Affairs, the National Interest, Arms Control Today, and The Washington Quarterly. Dina is the co-author of Triple-Axis: Iran’s Relations with Russia and China (I.B Taurus, 2018), and Living on the Edge: Iran and the Practice of Nuclear Hedging (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). She holds a PhD in the War Studies department at King’s College London and Masters Degrees from Kings College London and the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

This event is co-sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

This event is part of a new seminar hosted by the Fairbank Center and the Davis Center. This seminar aims to foster vibrant, comprehensive, and fruitful discussion about the ongoing transformations in geopolitics and governance resulting from China’s Belt Road Initiative. Co-sponsored by the Program on Central Asia at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.


February 22, 2021
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Event Category:


Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University
View Organizer Website

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